ELK CITY, Okla. – Parents know when a baby is on the way, most people have to work.
However, for one Elk City woman, that proved to be difficult after she says her employer fired her because she was pregnant.
Colt is Sherreea McClinton’s pride and joy, but nearly two years ago, being pregnant with her son meant unexpected unemployment.
“I was very scared,” said McClinton. “I didn’t know what to do or where to turn.’
Fired her first day on the job at Heidi Lynn`s Café, located inside the Elk City Livestock Auction building.
She says it came just after the cafe owner, Heidi Lott, found out she was two months pregnant.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Just because I’m pregnant?’, and they actually had said how good of a job I was doing,” said McClinton.
A move McClinton’s attorney, Nicole Snapp-Holloway, says violates Oklahoma employment laws.
“It’s a form of gender discrimination, and obviously women are the only ones who can have kids,” said Snapp-Holloway.
NewsChannel 4 contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The U.S. Labor Department and local attorneys. All say Oklahoma law makes it illegal for an employer, no matter how small, to fire someone because they are pregnant.
Attorneys say discrimination is difficult to prove in court, but in McClinton’s case, she used her phone to record a conversation with the boss’s daughter, Kristina Lott, to use as evidence.
In the recording Kristina Lott says, “It’s the whole new girl, and the fact that you are pregnant now, and she can’t have you.”
McClinton even expressed her feelings to the woman saying, “It’s just sad that I can’t work here because I’m pregnant.”
Then, Kristina Lott can be heard saying, “Yeah, she doesn’t want anything to happen because she can’t afford to pay for it. No insurance, no workers comp, no nothing.”
Court documents show Heidi Lott admits to firing the mother to be reading, “Defendant Lott admits that Plaintiffs indication to an employee at the cafe that she was pregnant contributed to the decision to terminate her employment.”
Further, Snapp-Holloway says a lack of insurance does not justify pregnancy prejudice at work.
“Whether it was an insurance issue or not, ultimately, it was because she was pregnant,” said Snapp-Holloway.
NewsChannel 4 worked to track down Heidi Lott to hear her side. She would not return phone messages.
Since being fired, McClinton has started her own taxi business. Finding new work was not easy for the expectant mother with the law suit.
Around the cafe, it wasn’t easy for NewsChannel 4 to find anyone willing to talk about the case. One person threatened to block our camera.
Still, McClinton says she’s taking a stand.
“People need to be aware this is going on,” said McClinton. “It’s completely just utterly wrong”
A judge has set a jury selection date in January. The trial is scheduled for March.